A quick guide to the key environmental issues facing us today.
1 Global warming
Human activity, in particular burning fossil fuels and deforestation, is causing a build-up of gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. These trap heat and raise temperatures, hence the term “greenhouse gases”.
The effects could include more droughts, severe storms spreading tropical diseases and rising sea levels due to melting icefields in Antarctica and Greenland, which could drown coastlines and low-lying regions. This could create billions of environmental refugees, leading to worldwide chaos.
Roughly 95 per cent of climate experts say there’s a 90 per cent chance that global warming is real and will have catastrophic consequences if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They could all be wrong – but would you bet on it?
2 Loss of wilderness
Forests, mangroves, wetlands and grasslands are being destroyed by human activities such as logging, agriculture and urban growth. But these ecosystems play a vital role in regulating the global ecosystem and shelter most of the world’s biodiversity.
3 Loss of biodiversity
Species are becoming extinct at a thousand times the normal rate, largely due to global warming and loss of wilderness.
4 Collapse of marine life
Many fish species are on the verge of extinction due to overfishing. Global warming also threatens the survival of coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef.
Overfarming and inappropriate farming methods are causing soil erosion, turning farmland into desert.
Pollutants from fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals are harming soil, water, animals, plants and human health.
There’s just not enough water to go around at the rate we’re using it.